Today’s interview is with Sue Bryce!
Hello Sue! I know that so many people are looking forward to meeting you and learning from you at Click Away! Your positive spirit is infectious and we are excited for our readers to get to know more about you prior to San Antonio. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and where you got your start in photography.
I started in the Photographic Industry when I was 18. It was August 15, 1989 and my first job was as a Retouch Artist. It was back in the dinosaur days of film so we retouched with dye onto the photo. My Mother was a Professional Retoucher. For my 18th birthday I bought myself a Minolta X300 and I started shooting everything that moved. One of my retouching clients was a Glamour Studio and soon after, they employed me as their in house retouch artist. It was like an apprenticeship – I was learning and shooting in the weekends and at 22 years old I was allowed to do my first Studio shoot for them.
You specialize in photographing women and glamour photography in particular. Can you give us some background on glamour photography and how this became your niche?
Around 1992 Glamour started to fade away and even become undesirable but I was young and didn’t want to shoot families and weddings but our studio was evolving fast to stay alive so I had too. But I kept the makeover aspect and just kept shifting our brand, shooting all natural light and modernizing it and not calling it glamour anymore. By 2003 I was 32 and ready to go out on my own. I had only worked in one studio and I had evolved Glamour into Contemporary Portraits. I was modeling myself back then on Herb Ritts. I designed my first website and everyone told me I was crazy, don’t just offer Glamour they said but I knew in my heart that’s all I wanted to do. Nothing prepared me for the first 3 years in business. I have seen the evolution of Film to digital, had to learn Photoshop on version one, and I knew that to stay alive through the years you had to evolve and learn constantly and stay fresh and replenished creatively but change is the one constant.
You have a large following on social media and you are incredibly positive and upbeat in your interactions with those followers. You’ve also been in the photography industry for close to 26 years. How has social media changed your business?
Of course we didn’t have email or the internet of social but I just loved embracing each new technology as it came forward and have marveled at the advancement each one brings to my business. I have to say the connection to the entire planet is what blows me away the most. The ability to share images and words and stories and have them impact people all over the world is amazing. I enjoy that aspect very much. Mostly for me, I love the online education that is available; it is extraordinary.
What is your favorite part about a glamour session?
You meet someone, you discuss what they want and what they will wear, and you watch them get pampered in the make up chair and then they are in front of you. Some people are more open than others but that doesn’t matter to me, what matters to me is when they drop their guard and get that soul shot coming out from their eyes and you know you’ve captured it and they will see that I can see it and I got it and it’s remarkably beautiful. Sigh.
Being in front of the camera can be uncomfortable for many people. How do you coax a nervous client to relax and trust your direction?
I understand now after all these years it’s about confidence and control. You need to take charge of someone at their most vulnerable and walk them through what you want from them but the more confidence I got in directing people, the more they just let go of the worry and fear and let me do my thing and then of course it’s easier to get great shots of them. If you have ever stood in front of a camera and the photographer stops directing you, you know straight away that it’s the weirdest feeling in the world. I love to teach photographers to flow pose, to map poses, to take control of the shoot, and to direct with confidence and be assertive.
In this digital age, we are constantly bombarded by visual stimulation and imagery. How do you decompress or where do you seek inspiration?
I have always been inspired by fashion but fashion isn’t always beautiful, it can be awkward and edgy so I find all of my inspiration from movies.
Can you give any advice for new photographers on how to stand out amongst an ever growing industry of photographers?
I have seen so many photographers that look good online but just can’t seem to get work. The biggest growth for me in the first three years of business was learning that it wasn’t about me competing as a photographer and trying to get noticed in the industry. The industry is not paying you, the public is. Most photographers are not marketing to the public what they want. Make your content for THEM not about YOU. So the bottom line is to stand out and offer GREAT service and your clients will come back over and over again and tell everyone. Service will get you more work than awards.
You are open about your love for shoes! Do you have a favorite pair that you think that every girl should have in her closet?
I do love shoes for two reasons: I wear black a lot so shoes were my color and also I am 5 foot 4 so I am always in heels. I don’t spend a lot of money on shoes. I am a bargain shopper but about 15 years ago I wrote on a vision board that I will one day own a pair of Black Prada pumps and a Prada hand bag. I saved for those pumps and cried the day I bought them. Stupid I know but they represented hard work and living my dreams and I achieved that. I wear them all the time and they are in my bedroom on their special box. They represent a lot to me about being a small town girl with big dreams and no education. The handbag I haven’t bought yet. I have saved the money but the business woman in me is like “Okay, do you really need this?” ha!
What is your ratio of natural to studio light in your sessions? Do you have a preference for one over the other?
I spent my whole life defending my natural light when everyone was shooting ugly flash and only this last year have I incorporated Strobe and Kino daylights into my studio. I finally met Felix Kunze and he taught me that I can replicate natural light; no one was able to show me that before. It’s a joy to master something new at this point in my career, to feel vulnerable and new at something like you have two left feet.
You have a big heart and are known for giving back of your time and talent. Is there a particular cause that is important to you or a friendship that has formed as a result of your
Without doubt, Jill in Paris, meeting Jill, and taking her to Paris for a photoshoot. She remains a big part of my life. I had a friend die of Breast Cancer when I was 24 years old so I had always used my photography to help raise money and awareness over the years. Then I meet Kristi Blair, she is a breast Cancer survivor with 5 children and she had lost her Mom. Kristi started Wings of Karen in the memory of her Mom to raise money for research. She is doing prolific work in this area and I try to shoot for them and contribute as much as I can. I would love all photographers to use their skills to work with at least one charity per year if they can. We are visual storytellers and memory makers – it reconnects you to the power of what you are capable of and makes you realize you can help.
You are without a doubt a successful, decorated photographer. What do you attribute your success as a photographer and teacher to?
My boss. He once asked me what I wanted to be doing in 5 years and I said “Your job”. He laughed at me. He said “at best you’re just a retoucher. You are uneducated and from the wrong side of town with no dress sense and poor elocution.” He broke my heart that day. I went home and I looked in the mirror and I asked myself was this true and yes it all was, but there was a burning inside me to be more so I listened and I learned and I practiced and when I got knocked down I got up every time. I would read the dictionary before I went to sleep at night because the love I had for being a photographer was stronger than his limitations and view of me. Five years later I was about to go into a shoot at his studio. He was playing golf that day and I called him on the course and said “Hi, do you know what day it is?” and he said “no”. I said “it’s my five year anniversary of working for you and guess what? I am doing your job.” He laughed and said “YES, I have always marveled at your ability to grow”. I was uneducated and I was from the wrong side of town but, there is a fighting spirit inside me that will defy any naysayer. I am a strong, smart, fierce, independent woman and I will make my own path in this world thank you very much. What most people in this world need is validation to live their own dreams. Well, I say validation is permission that belongs to ME. You are free to choose and make your path anything you want it to be.